Conservation status Still locally common in its limited U.S. range, with no obvious population trends.
Family Crows, Magpies, Jays
Habitat Open oak forests (Arizona); oak-pine woods (Texas). In Arizona, found in various oak woodlands, including those mixed with pines, in canyons and lower slopes of mountains (up to about 7,000'). Elsewhere in range, in Texas and Mexico, found in a variety of forests dominated by pines and oaks.
Widespread in Mexico, this bird enters the United States in two areas: in much of southeastern Arizona and adjacent New Mexico, and in the Big Bend area of Texas. These two populations are not closely connected in Mexico, and they differ in a number of ways, including egg color, bill color of the young, voice, and aspects of nesting behavior. The nesting habits in Arizona are surprisingly complicated, various members of the flock being more or less involved with several nesting attempts at once.

Feeding Behavior

Forages on the ground or in trees, usually in flocks. May visit large flowers in summer for nectar and insects. Rarely catches insects in flight. Breaks open acorns by holding them against branch with feet and pounding with bill. Harvests acorns in fall and buries them in ground, often remembering location and retrieving them later.


4-5, sometimes 1-6. Eggs pale unmarked green in Arizona; in Texas, pale blue-green, usually with pale brownish spots. Incubation is by female only, about 18 days. Other adults in flock feed incubating female on nest. Young: Fed by both parents and by other members of flock. Young leave nest at about 25-28 days, may be fed for several weeks thereafter.


Fed by both parents and by other members of flock. Young leave nest at about 25-28 days, may be fed for several weeks thereafter.


Omnivorous; mostly acorns, seeds, insects. Diet is largely acorns and seeds of pinyon pine from fall through winter, mostly insects in summer. Eats grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and many other insects; also lizards, small snakes, birds' eggs, rarely mice or birds.


Flocks defend permanent territories that may remain the same for generations. Within each flock, 2-4 females may nest at one time; each is attended by one male, but may mate with other males in flock as well. In Texas, where flocks are smaller, may nest as isolated pairs. Nest site is in tree, often oak, juniper, or pine, usually well hidden among foliage. Height averages about 20' up, can be 6-60' above the ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is bulky cup of sticks and twigs, lined with fine rootlets and plant fibers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Almost never moves away from immediate breeding territory; one of the most sedentary bird species in North America.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for over 450 bird species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

A loud shrink? or wenk? often repeated.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Mexican Jay

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the Mexican Jay

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.